An Irish Blessing

An Irish Blessing

There’s a bit of Ireland running through the Southern Son saga, a little Claddaugh ring that Mattie Holliday inherits from her Grandmother Anne O’Carew Fitzgerald, and that she gives to John Henry as a symbol of their affection.   It first appears in Book One, Inheritance, and comes back again and again through the three books and into the Postscript at the end.  Can’t tell you how or why or where without ruining the story for you, but it’s more than a plot device: it’s a physical symbol of spiritual things and of the emotional story that winds through the adventure of Doc Holliday’s life.  You’ll see it as part of the logo on the cover of all three books.

That little Claddaugh ring has become an important symbol in my writing life as well, as my husband gave me my own Irish ring after it first appeared in the book, and then my mother continued the tradition over the years by sending me gifts that featured the gold Irish ring.  I have necklaces and earrings, a shiny door knocker, wall plaques and kitchen linens and birthday cards.  The image of the Irish ring became an ongoing reminder that she believed in me and the story I had to tell.Continue reading

Roads To Tara

Roads To Tara

Peggy Mitchell Marsh was at a loss for words, and it could not have come at a worse time.  Gerald was dead, killed by a fall from his horse, and there needed to be a proper eulogy spoken, but Peggy couldn’t think of anything to say.  The mourners were gathered around the grave, their faces strained with emotion and flushed with the heat of the June sun, waiting for the words of comfort that only she could give.  No one knew Gerald better than Peggy, or understood what his loss would mean to them all – more than the death of a man; the end of an era as well.

Suellen and Careen, Gerald’s two younger daughters, stood sobbing quietly, leaning on Melanie’s fragile shoulder, and Melanie was crying too.  She had loved Gerald like a father though she was no real relation to him.  Only Scarlett stood dry-eyed, alone and apart.  She was Gerald’s eldest, the most like him, and the one most shattered by his death.  But she had cried herself out last night and she couldn’t cry anymore. 

Beside the grave, golden hair shining in the sun, Ashley stood with the Book of Prayer laid open in his hands.  Scarlett watched him out of cat-green eyes and was glad that it was Ashley who would speak the service – his melodious drawl would be a comfort to her on this most awful of all days.  Ashley raised his eyes and for a moment Scarlett thought he might look her way, but he gazed past her and nodded to Will, the new foreman who had taken over at Fontenoy Hall when the Yankee Wilkerson had been fired.  Will nodded back to him, and Ashley cleared his throat and looked up at the waiting crowd…Continue reading

Haunting the Holliday House

Haunting the Holliday House

I love ghost stories, the spookier the better – like spectral figures that stalk the grounds of ancient estates, faces that appear in old windows and mirrors, doors that lock themselves when no one is in a room, things that go bump in the night…

Doc Holliday grew up in a world of such things, in a land where Indian legends still echoed in strange names like Etowah and Ocmulgee, where Irish ancestors left tales of wood sprites and banshees, where black slaves told stories of haints and bogymen and “boo hags” that hid in the dark piney woods.  When a beloved family member passed, even good Christian folk covered all the reflective glass in the house lest the dearly departed should peer back at them from beyond the veil.  So one would expect that the Holliday’s house, built in the 1850’s and a place where generations of family members lived and loved and died, should be filled to overflowing with spirits.  How could such a classic Southern mansion not have a few classically Southern ghosts to go with it?

So one of my first questions, on one of my first visits to the Holliday House, was whether or not it was haunted. Or, as I put it to the nice girl who worked nights at the answering service that had an office there, back when the house was still an unrestored old home with an interesting past and an uncertain future: “Have you seen any ghosts?”Continue reading

Sunset for a Southern Lady

Sunset for a Southern Lady

I first met Susie in a filing cabinet at the old Margaret Mitchell Library in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Not that she was actually in the filing cabinet, of course.  It was her book I discovered there, tucked away in a file labeled “Holliday Family,” and where I was searching for information for the newly begun restoration of the circa 1855 Holliday House in Fayetteville, forty miles south of Atlanta.  The house was a classic antebellum beauty, with tall white columns across a wide front veranda, a breezeway between the twin parlors, fireplaces in every one of the eight large rooms and hand-blown glass in the multi-paned windows.  But it was an aging beauty: 150 years old and being considered for demolition when I found it and fell in love and started up a community action group and then a non-profit organization to save it and restore it as a museum of Fayette County history.  As the home of a Civil War-era doctor, it was interesting enough, but with the family’s connections to Gone With the Wind and Doc Holliday, it seemed a priceless piece of Georgia’s history.Continue reading

Dancing with Doc Holliday and Rhett Butler

Dancing with Doc Holliday and Rhett Butler

I’ve always found it kind of neat that I was born on Margaret Mitchell’s birthday, November the 8th. Gave me an interesting connection to the writer I so admired from the first time I read Gone With the Wind as a young teen. Don’t remember the year, but do remember how I loved living in the world she created – and how I hated the ending she gave me! No romance with Ashley, whom I adored (so much more interesting in the book than in the movie, sorry Leslie Howard)! Just a shocking, “I don’t give a damn,” from Rhett at the end of those 1200 captivating pages.

Of course, I wanted to fix that awful ending, and imagined how the book should have gone. Being a born writer (well, as long as I can remember, anyhow), it didn’t seem like too much of a task to me. Just pick up the story where Margaret left off, following Rhett down the street to his own adventures before meeting up again with Scarlett. This was before the copycat novels Scarlett and Rhett Butler’s People tried to do the same thing, and my version was sooooo much better! Rhett would return to New Orleans (not Charleston, as in those other books), where his secret son with Belle Watling has been living in a fancy boarding school. That was Belle’s idea, not wanting her son to know who his mother really was, and Rhett went along with her plan, not sure how to tell the fine Butler family that there is an heir born of a prostitute…

Hmm. Seems like a theme that appears elsewhere in my writing. Maybe I get that nobleman-in-disguise storyline from another childhood favorite of mine, Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper (Mark Twain himself shows up in several places in my Southern Son saga). Fiction is derivative, after all, as a writer can only write what she’s lived or read or otherwise imagined.Continue reading